Author: mccieslo

Hi! My name is Candace Cieslo. My first name is Mary, but because my husband's name is Joseph, I try not to use it much. We live in Palmer with our three children. I am part of the distance learning group. I met my husband at Georgetown University and graduated from the School of Foreign Service in 1995. I joined the Army and went to Officer Candidate School and served for about 10 years. My husband, Joe, retired from the Army in 2013 after 21 years of service. We took that opportunity to travel around the country for a year. We have three children, (ages 13, 12 and 6,) so we chose to home school them for that year. We made them keep a blog to record their events and to help keep their writing and observation skills up to par. ( It was a great way for all of us to keep up with our travels and we enjoy looking over the photos on a regular basis. At the end of the year, we found ourselves at Big Bear RV Park in Palmer. We decided to rent a house for the first year, just to make sure it was a good fit. A year later, almost to the day, we bought a home less than 10 miles away. We love Alaska and feel fortunate to live here. I teach in the Business Department at Mat-Su College. My Master’s Degree is in Human Resource Management and am currently seeking a Masters in Secondary Education.


-First and foremost, I feel being a member of an educational institution demands that the students are made our number one priority. Students should feel safe, inspired and be the focus of our work.   Their success as a student is reflection of our work as teachers.

– I believe in setting goals. Young adults should surround themselves with people who believe in them and help them reach those goals. I aim to be one of those people. I believe that success is always attainable and that the definition of success varies from person to person.   Giving 100% is the goal.

-I passionately believe inspiration is contagious and that lessons can be and should be learned from the most difficult of circumstances. Consequently, growth is achieved and inspiration spread.

-I do not believe in one size fits all. This is particularly true with students.   Each person, each student is unique and should be treated as such.

-I am inspired by motivated people working together to reach a common goal. Selfless service is a key in the education system; each member of the team needs to make the best of the resources they have available for the students

-I believe that a teacher should lead by example. They should make informed decisions based on solid information, be consistent and fair to all involved. Teachers never expect more than they are willing to give. Praise in public, counsel in private.

-Perhaps most important, I believe everyone makes mistakes, forgets an assignment, or speaks out of line on occasions. Because of this, we should be careful with our words, criticism and judgment. Quick to praise, slow to judge and stay mindful we are all human.


Reflect on classroom observation
The teacher I observe is so good that I wish I had been in her class from day one.   It is very obvious that she has earned the respect of the students. I have never observed a discipline problem that could not be be tempered with simply saying the student’s name.   She teaches Government and therefor has grades 9-12, and seems to manage them all with ease.

She stands at the door and greets the students as they enter the class.   While taking role, instead of asking for “here” or “present” she has them respond to a question.   Each day is different, ranging from “What is your favorite song?” to “Who would you vote for?” or What place would you like to visit?” This personal touch allows her some insight, lets the students communicate and hopefully feel their teacher is interested on a personal level, and breaks up a necessary but mundane activity. She smoothly transitions from role call to the bulk of her lesson plans by asking questions to refresh their memories of where they left off the previous class.

During her class I have observed many styles but they all center around her approachable nature and her command of the subject matter.   She uses discussion, collaboration and will take the students to the computer lab to do research.   It is never boring. During lessons, she often has a movie clip or quick reference on the computer.   She make the smooth transition from discussion or lecture to this because she already has the item queued; she merely has to make one click of the mouse to start the clip.

For closing she often wraps up with a quick review and reminders of what events or assignments are coming up in the next week. She has a nice way of summarizing the major points and reminding them of how or why it is important information for their upcoming projects.

I will definitely apply the technique of role call with questions.   I think connecting with students is important and this is a quick and effective way to glean insight into students lives.   Perhaps this will open doors and give me insight to help make that connection.

Positive Student-Teacher relationships

Will students work harder if they have a positive relationship with their teacher?   Think about it!   Who do you work harder for, a boss you like or a boss that does not seem to care about you?   Many times we forget how impressionable students are and how easy it can be to become a positive influence on them.   Teachers change lives and that is a great responsibility. “The most powerful weapon available to secondary teachers who want to foster a favorable learning climate is a positive relationship with our students’ (p. 6)

The author suggest that having a positive relationship is about being proactive, meeting the children where they are most available.   This means looking past our own value of what is important and look at their strengths and see the value through their eyes.       In essence, the author suggest drawing the good out of the student by giving five recommendations that will help facilitate the process.

1. Interview Your Students.

2. Give assignments that allow students to share their experiences and interests.

3. Encourage classroom discussions that let students be the center of attention.

4. Attend extracurricular activities featuring your students.

5. Visit a site in your students’ community.

The NEA has been a part of the education system for decades.   Their site is full of useful articles and information.   This particular article offers 5 steps teachers can make to ensure they build better relationships with their students.   The first suggestion is to become a popular teacher, as students do not want to disappoint teachers they like and respect. The second suggestion is get to know your students.   While this may sound obvious, it is important to know a little about each student.   It is much better to find out about Friday’s game from a sports fanatic, and the theater’s performance from a student active in drama.

Next,   are two suggestions that work on respecting the student, to be careful of belittling them in front of their peers to protect their self esteem, and to build that esteem on the good days; the days they do well, let them know it! The final point suggest that simply listening to the student, without distraction and with your true attention, does wonders for their esteem.

All three articles are full of great ideas for developing and improving positive relationships between students and teachers.

The Future of Alaska Native Education

It is encouraging to read of the success in Norway- not trying to assimilate the Sami, but rather let them be who they were born to be, to preserve their culture and allow them to flourish with less outside influence.

We face similar problems here in Alaska.   Many people, with good intentions, try to “help” Native Alaskans in small villages, by educating them the way mainstream America has determined appropriate.   In the process, the Native Alaskans are losing their language, their culture and their autonomy while becoming more dependent on outsiders.

I am confident that policies of enforced acculturation are not ill intended, but certainly ill fated.   We need to break with these policies and change the direction of their education before an entire culture is lost.

Stress, Mindsets and Education

           In the article, “Risk and Reward Are Processed Differently in Decisions Made Under Stress” I felt stress reading it!   I will be perfectly honest and say that the last time I took a science course was in 1991; as soon as the author started throwing out terms that reminded me of that long lost part of my academic career, I felt my all of synapses starting to fail.

Having said that, I do not think it is a surprise to learn males and females usually deal with stress differently.   My husband, who is a retired Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel, can be under heavy gun fire and not show stress.   However, the second he has to talk to our 12 year old daughter about anything “girly” his blood pressure goes up, he breaks into a cold sweat and his heartbeat begins to race.     We are wired different for survival purposes (pre-grocery store era), so we respond different to stimulus.

The common thread with the article and the video clips (the new teacher getting tips on classroom management and the speaker who encourages us to not blame everyone else for our students not succeeding) is that we, as teachers, need to be accountable for learning in the classroom. It is not easy. It can be frustrating. The good news is that if we prepare ourselves with dynamic lessons, exude a love for learning, practice patience and good classroom management skills, we will mitigate disruption and facilitate a positive learning environment.

Mary’s Classroom Rules and Thoughts on Rules…

Slide1We know classroom rules are imperative to successful classroom management.   Unfortunately there are so many options and opinions on how to establish those rules, it can seem like a monumental task! Fortunately classroom rules do not have to be a “one size fits all’ scenario.   Neither does the method with which you come up with the rules.

Some successful teachers allow the students to help make the rules at the beginning of the year.   This activity may foster a sense of ownership and encourage students to pay attention to the rules they have helped create.

Other teachers believe starting off the school year strict, with a pre-determined list of rules to alleviate any ambiguity as to who is in charge.   These teachers feel that if the students have negotiation room, they will perceive the teacher as week.

Perhaps a combination of the two approaches would be most effective.   The teacher can start the year with a basic set of rules, or the rules from the prior year, and modify them to fit the new class with the student input.     This would provide an outline of expectations, but allow the students to work out the nuances of the rules.


Mary’s Classroom RULEs


  1. Respect (yourself, your classmates and school property)
  2. Use your manners (raise your hand, say please and thank you)
  3. Listen carefully
  4. Excel- To get what you’ve never had, you have to do what you’ve never done.


NEA has a long standing relationship with teachers and tons of resources on their website.   The following is just one of the many links available.

This particular link discusses the following main ideas:


  • Take Charge of Your Class
  • Focus on the Disruptive Students
  • Let Students Choose Their Seats
  • Give Incentives to Do Their Best on Assignments
  • Keep an Eye on Your Students
  • Establish Consequences for Misbehaving
  • Classroom rules

(Mary) Candace Cieslo.

I was born into a military family and attended 8 schools before I graduated high school.   Upon graduation I was accepted to Georgetown University on a full scholarship. I met my husband, Joe, the first week of school, but remained just friends until years later.   He and I had both joined the Army, independent of each other, and were re-acquainted   at Fort Benning, Georgia.   I served ten years and Joe retired from the Army in 2013 after 21 years of service.When he retired, we took that opportunity to travel around the country for a year.   We have three children and are currently hosting an exchange student from Mexio.(For a total of four children!)

I enjoy traveling to new places all around the world, photography, the outdoors, and learning about other cultures. Mission work is my passion: my next trip with Wasilla Sunrise Rotary is scheduled for February 2016, working with a great group out of Panajachel, Guatemala, called Mayan Families.

I teach in the Business Department at Mat-Su College.   My undergraduate degree is in International Relations.   I earned a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management and am currently seeking a Masters in Secondary Education (distance education courses). I plan to take the Praxis ii in both Spanish and Government.